Vampires have long been a popular topic in fiction, but the craze has gotten out of hand since the terrible Twilight books and movies came out (although I maintain that the Cullens are not in fact vampires, but fairies). The series (and the money it made) has “inspired” a lot of film directors, authors, and TV executives to try their hand at recreating the ridiculously and undeservedly popular series. The genre has been so flooded with crappy YA literature, teen dramas, mediocre movies, and trashy romance novels that most people are completely sick of it.
Vampires: Horrifying Or Angst-Ridden?
They’re right to be sick of it: the entertainment industry either needs to stop forcing vampires on us or do something to improve the undead bloodsuckers’ image, because right now vampire shows and movies rival reality TV with the level of angsty, irritating drama we have to suffer through. They have become neutered, mopey creatures that constantly fall in love with teenage humans and inexplicably return to high school again and again. Vampires, along with many other monsters who were once terrifying, have been turned into pretty, shiny, or in the case of Twilight, sparkly creatures, and sanitized to the point of being unrecognizable from the complex and charismatic villains they once were. Sure, they still murder people here and there, but they do so stylishly and feel very guilty about it later.
Vampires don’t even have to be purely villainous to be entertaining. Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer did an admirable job in pulling off vampires as love interests, and it was mostly because they didn’t sanitize them. Angel and Spike’s true vampire faces were hideous, and Spike’s evil nature still reared its ugly head time and time again even when he was in love (or obsessed) with Buffy. Vampirism wasn’t glamorized; vampires were presented as soulless monsters, which made watching Spike and Angel fight for redemption all the more complicated and ultimately rewarding. The monsters of Buffy also served to illustrate real life problems, and there was a point or meaning to everything that happened. New shows and movies, like The Vampire Diaries, serve up drama for the sake of drama, and turn supposedly ancient vampires possessing centuries of experience into the immature teenagers they resemble. We won’t even talk about Twilight, because I refuse to acknowledge those sparkly things as vampires.
Another major reason people are sick of the undead is because they are genuinely overused. There are currently six shows about or featuring vampires on the air, probably half of all fantasy books in the ‘new releases’ section of Goodreads are about vampires, and each year more vampire movies come out than I can keep track of. Even basing a show around vampire protagonists has become enough of a cliché to make people avoid watching it because of that premise alone. But the TV and movie gods seem content to milk the dying craze for every last drop of money, and the quantity inevitably brings down the quality. Making a vampire show just so your network has one is not a recipe for original, creative entertainment.
Vampires are a natural fascination for humans, as they provide an excellent springboard for thoughts and discussions about life, death, morality, and immortality, all of which humans have been obsessed with since the beginning of recorded history. Reading about and watching vampires allows us to vicariously experience what we think immortality would be like. But most of the new vampire books, movies, and TV shows are not of high enough quality to ever serve as thought-provoking entertainment.
Vampires have a serious image problem, and what they need is a public relations specialist to remake their whole look. No more sparkles or unrealistically perfect CW actors (seriously, are these people made in some sort of factory?); vampires should be gritty and dangerous. They have already been re-branded from frightening villains to romantic leads, and there’s no reason they can’t be reinvented for a second time. Vampires need to be scary again. The Strain, Guillermo Del Toro’s new vampire show premiering in July, sounds like a step in the direction of making the undead monsters again. But vampires don’t even need to be all scary all the time, as long as we can find the happy medium between terrifying creatures of the night and shiny broody people that was done so well in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.